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Still dangerous

(article, Culinate staff)

A few weeks ago, the Obama administration dropped its plan to increase regulation of child labor on farms. Small-scale farmers were relieved, of course, that their kids could still do chores. But those kids, as history professor Marjorie Elizabeth Wood recently noted — in a New York Times op-ed that nicely summarized the history of the child-labor-law movement in the U.S. — aren't really the ones under threat. Rather, it's the exploited children of illegal immigrants who are most at risk, working on massive farms under grueling conditions.

bq. The recent proposal by the Department of Labor was intended to protect poor migrant child workers who do seasonal farm work for “Big Agriculture.” They sorely need it. According to Human Rights Watch, child farm workers are at greater risk of pesticide poisoning, serious injury, heat illness, and death than any other youth workers in America. 

On AlterNet, Mariya Strauss seconded Wood's op-ed, pointing out that scores of children die each year working on American farms. She added that the proposed legislation's presumed threat to the family farm was simply wrong, as the legislation included provisions for kids to do family-farm chores.

What was so controversial? The proposed legislation would have banned children from obviously hazardous activities, including working with pesticides, working from a height higher than six feet, and working with heavy machinery. All of the rules were designed to make farm-labor regulations match up with restrictions in American industry at large. But for now, workplace safety on farms remains an ideal, not a reality.